My regular readers know that I rarely write about Israeli politics. I only recall one article. I avoid the subject for two main reasons. It is not my place as an American living in New York to tell Israelis what to do or think. Secondly, it is hard half a world away to get a feel of the players involved, whether it is the elected officials, the media, or ordinary citizens. I must be in Israel and be on top of daily political machinations to be able to have a reasonable basis to comment on the situation in Israel. There are others who feel differently so I will make some general remarks to them.
The Attorney General of Israel recommended charges against Prime Minster Netanyahu who is head of the Likud Party.
Netanyahu is the first prime minister to be charged while in office. However, he is not the first prime minister to be charged with a crime. Ehud Olmert was prime minster when reports of a criminal investigation surfaced. He decided to resign. He was later convicted of bribery and breach of trust. Olmert had been a member of Likud but left to start the Kadima party.
The charges against Netanyahu as reported are:
CASE 1000: Netanyahu and his wife Sara wrongfully received almost 700,000 shekels (about $200,000) worth of gifts from Arnon Milchan, a prominent Hollywood producer and Israeli citizen, and Australian billionaire businessman James Packer. Netanyahu used his role in public office to help Milchan with his business interests.
CASE 2000 alleges that Netanyahu negotiated a deal with Arnon Mozes, owner of Yedioth Ahronoth, for better coverage. In return, the prime minister offered legislation that would slow the growth of a rival daily newspaper.
CASE 4000: Netanyahu granted a series of regulatory favors worth around 1.8 billion shekels (about $500 million) to Israel’s leading telecommunications company, Bezeq Telecom Israel. In return, prosecutors say, he requested positive coverage of him and his wife on a news website controlled by the company’s former chairman, Shaul Elovitch.
It appears that the House of Representatives will vote on articles of impeachment against President Trump, a Republican. The last president against whom articles of impeachment were voted was Bill Clinton, a Democrat.
Therefore, both in Israel and in United States, the new charges are against individuals who are of rival parties from their predecessors who were charged.
It is easy to look at an individual you do not like or respect or whose policies you do not agree with and figure that there are merits to the charges. It is a lot harder to do so when you like, respect, or agree with the person’s positions.
Many of us have known either colleagues, community leaders, or politicians whom we respected and agreed with and then found out they were in engaged in nefarious and sometimes illegal conduct. It is upsetting since it is hard to admit that we were so wrong in judging the person. Also, it is hard to accept that a person whose ideas we agree with is corrupt.
One way to try to keep an open mind is to imagine that a person from a rival party has been charged. This exercise would apply whether you like or dislike the person being charged.
What would be your reaction if Obama, while president, had been charged for engaging in identical conduct as Trump. What would have been your reaction if Benny Gantz or another left-leaning politician had been charged with violating the law by engaging in identical conduct as Netanyahu?
It is hard in these polarizing times to try to keep an open mind. But it is necessary.